A week ago, the Valencia High baseball team was in a dogpile on West Ranch’s field after winning the Foothill League.
On Thursday afternoon, players exchanged somber hugs with coaches. The Vikings fell to Dos Pueblos of Goleta 5-2 at home in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
It was Valencia’s second straight first-round loss.
“It’s a hard way to go down,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger. “You work 30 games. This is game 31. And it’s one and done after that. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
The Vikings (23-8) looked good. They felt good. Chase Farrell was dominating on the mound, backed by a defense that wasn’t allowing more than four Dos Pueblos batters to walk up to the plate in each of the first five innings. And they certainly weren’t allowing any scoring.
Offensively, Bobby Orr got the Vikes on the board in the fourth inning with an RBI single.
Then came the sixth inning. Two Chargers in row grounded out, then Colter Nisbet, a high-caliber hitter, was intentionally walked.
Davy Demeter followed up with an RBI double and, later, Isaac Coffey hit an RBI single to put the Chargers up 2-1.
Farrell was pulled and replaced with Trace Eldridge.
“Just throw strikes,” Eldridge said he told himself as he took the mound. “Make them hit the ball. No free bases.”
Eldridge struck out the first batter he faced to close the sixth inning, but allowed two costly hits in the seventh. Enter Valencia’s third pitcher, Ben Fariss.
“They got us on pitches that we would’ve been better on and we just kept trying to mix and match to figure out what was the right matchup,” Killinger said.
Dos Pueblos (19-9-1) chalked up three more runs in the seventh inning, which included a home run by Dylan Kelley.
“Just stay within yourselves,” said Eldridge of what the team’s late focus was. “Just try not to do too much. Just be a team guy and just try and help us win.”
Eldridge, a senior, cracked an RBI double for the Vikings’ final word.
“I don’t think we gave up,” Eldridge said. “I think we started stressing a little bit, but I feel like we were fine. We were still in it.
“… (I’m) a little disappointed, but I’m proud of all my guys.”